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Last Updated: Friday, 21 September 2007, 10:07 GMT 11:07 UK
Rich nations 'ignore' power shift
Workers assemble motorcycle at a factory in China
Manufacturing in China has been the main driver of economic growth
Rich nations are failing to adjust to the rapid rise of emerging economies, a former World Bank boss has warned.

The developed world has not yet fully grasped that economic power is moving eastward and what the implications of that will be, said James Wolfensohn.

He predicted that China will grab the crown from the US as the world's richest country by 2040, with India close behind.

Yet, these countries were still treated with a "colonial" attitude, he said.

"The leadership in the developed world, and people who should know better, still have not adjusted to the fact that this is not just a modest change in global economic power and influence, but a tectonic shift," Mr Wolfensohn said.

"If you look at the developed world and how it is addressing this change, the steps that are being taken are relatively trivial."

'Tectonic shift'

Speaking at a gathering of high-profile financiers in Hong Kong to discuss developments in Asia's financial markets, he noted that there were already signs that power had begun to seep away from today's economic leaders of the US and Europe.

One sign was the fact that African politicians and businessmen now engage directly with China and India, bypassing Western nations, he added.

With Asian countries poised to account for the bulk of global growth by 2050, compared with 10% in 1950, Mr Wolfensohn called on the Western world to focus more on understanding the region's culture and learning to speak its languages.

He also underlined a growing need to appreciate social responsibility in these developing countries, where the break-neck speed of economic growth has largely been driven by an exports boom that relies on an underpaid labour force.

James Wolfensohn was president of the World Bank for 10 years until the beginning of 2005.

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